LGBT rights | Moves afoot to shut down appointment of UN's first expert on sexual orientation and gender identity issues

05.11.2016

A group of countries at the UN General Assembly are attempting to block progress on LGBT issues and risk damaging its institutional relationship with the Human Rights Council.

Update: A vote on the resolution is anticpated to be held in New York on Monday 21 November.

Civil society organisations working to support and advance human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity issues are horrified that a coalition of countries are attempting to effectively repeal a decision by the UN’s Human Rights Council to appoint an independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) issues.

LGBT rights programme manager at the International Service of Human Rights (ISHR), Pooja Patel, said an African group of countries at the current General Assembly session at the UN in New York were attempting to question the legal basis of the recent landmark decision.

‘This move is harmful to non-violence and anti-discrimination efforts in relation to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people around the world. It will also entrench an ugly precedent whereby the Third Committee could effectively reverse any decision by the Human Rights Council, completely undermining its integrity and independence,’ said Ms Patel.

Although the Human Rights Council is the world’s peak authority on human rights matters, the General Assembly’s Third Committee – tasked with considering social, humanitarian and cultural matters – has fallen into a pattern in recent years of voting on whether to accept the Council’s reports.

The co-director of ISHR's New York office, Eleanor Openshaw, said there were no grounds on which to question the legality of the SOGI expert's mandate, and certainly no justification for an indefinite deferral.

‘The legal validity of this expert position is rooted in principles of non-discrimination and universality of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. It is very much in line with the Council’s responsibility and obligation, as articulated in its founding documents, to promote the universal protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all,’ said Ms Openshaw.

Thailand’s Vitit Muntarbhorn has already begun his work as the Independent Experto on SOGI issues. His job is to support the UN and governments around the world to address the systematic violence faced by people based on their real or percieved sexual orientation and gender identity. He is also tasked with the responsibility to engage in dialogue and provide technical assistance to governments based on the understanding that differing views on these issues exist.

'There is no doubt that issues of sexual orientation and gender identity remain challenging in so many of our societies. This only enhances the urgent need for a UN expert who can respectfully and principally work towards bridging the divide while contributing towards the safety and dignity of LGBT people,' said Ms Patel. 

ISHR has joined a global call to all countries to uphold principles of universality of human rights and to reject any attempt at weakening the autonomy of the Human Rights Council.

A call to action has been issued to State representatives at the UN.

Further background information can be found here.

 

For further information or media comments from Ms Patel, please contact Tom Clarke t.clarke@ishr.ch

Category:

Topic
  • LGBT rights
  • United Nations
Mechanism
  • Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council
  • Third Committee of the UN General Assembly
  • UN Human Rights Council